Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sustainable Energy Group to Meet; Thoughts on ALLCO

In an earlier post, we talked about the fantastic kick-off meeting of a new community group focused on creating and driving a new sustainable energy agenda in town.

While we are still in the early formation stage, our second exploratory meeting will be taking place next Monday, December 10, from 7:00 – 8:00 PM at the Tiverton Community Center on Judson Street (off Main Road, past Holy Ghost Church). Our agenda will focus on reviewing the initial scope of the group that we formulated last time and talk about how best to align ourselves with the town for maximum impact. If you’re interested in being a part of this exploratory discussion please join us. Questions? Email me.

While we’re talking about sustainable energy, I can’t help but pass along a few thoughts on the recent news regarding the potential ALLCO project off Little Compton’s coast. I’ve hung back to observe initial reaction from the community and local papers. All-in-all, it’s been mixed.

I admit that I’m biased, but this matter requires a strong and thorough discourse by everyone involved. What makes the stakes even higher is that this project – possibly the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. -- could have the eyes of the nation on it (assuming that Cape Wind does not progress). We have an opportunity to create the model, not only for the rest of Rhode Island’s offshore projects, but nationally as well.

Admittedly, I understand both sides of the table. Cut our dependence on carbon-based fuels or disrupt wildlife? Dig deep to pay for ever-increasing oil prices or “jeopardize” the pristine view (and the real estate prices they command)? Compromise a new sustainable energy-based economic model at the expense of a well-established local sea-based one?

These are difficult questions with no easy answers. A logical place to start could be by benchmarking all the offshore European wind farms. They’ve been operational for some time. What have they learned? How have their lives and environment changed (if at all)? We need to hear directly from those who have gone before us. The lessons they have learned could shine some much-needed light on the discussion. Closer to home, there are well-informed individuals who could carry a big flashlight here. Let's get the right people at the table before we start a round-robin of misinformation.

ALLCO’s website describes its community-based approach to wind farm development. At the surface, this appears to offer some relief from immediate concerns of Mr. Big-Time Developer coming in and tearing up our neighborhood. Hearing from some of the Midwest ranchers they’ve worked with would also be enlightening.

At the end of the day though, we need to do something to change course. I’d hate to position it as picking the lesser of the two evils, because there’s nothing bad about any of this. But as citizens of Sakonnet (and the Earth for that matter), we need to decide on what kind of future we want to have. Think only in the short-term and we are bound miss out and wonder how future generations will think of us. Think long-term and we have a wonderful opportunity to help set a new course and find comfort knowing that future generations will look back with admiration at the courage we had to think and act progressively.


donald machado said...

Best wishes with your sustainable efforts.

something to consider, or not is looking at sustainability in terms of resource management, which includes energy production.

maybe this is more than you have the scope to assume, but can your group consider looking at existing town energy management plans; utilization of resource reduction in governmental processes (particularly the proper implementation of the paper reduction act) or better use of document management technologies - digitizing records, applications, etc to save on paper/ink supplies; improvement or implementation of greener building and departmental transportation programs (conversion to hybrids or optimal energy consumption vehicles). These are minor examples, but emblematic of a comprehensive approach to establishing a short- and long-term vision for Tiverton regarding sustainability.

Does the town have an environmental/eco/green whatever you want to call it Plan? similar or part of the comprehensive plan? Is there a point person or committee/task force, etc within the town council dedicated to the creation of a policy on these matters...

Alternative/sustainable/renewable energy production is a huge and laudable aim and overdue, or at least due in town...but, can it be done optimally without the most holistic approach possible...energy/resource mgmt, with an implementation, monitoring, enforcing component?

Again, best wishes...just beginning this kind of dialog is critical. I hope that it's the start of and a significant component for a broader platform.



Donald -- great points. Depending on the alignment of this new group (independent or affiliated with the Town Council), there are a couple avenues to explore. What's also being discussed is the overall scope of the group. What should we focus in on that assures our ability to actually get some results. Scope to big and you inch along with no real results. We're thinking more about scoping smaller to begin with, getting some successes, then growing from there.

One of the things we've discussed early on (and these are not set in stone by any means) is figuring out a way to recommend and advocate for changes to the Town's master plan to integrate sustainability strategies in there.

Hang on -- it should be a good ride. Keep lending a voice to the conversation!